The Mobility Package, which the Commission presented on 31 May 2017, contains numerous innovations, which are intended to make road transport in Europe fairer and more sustainable. In particular the proposed changes with regard to cabotage and posting of drivers represent major developments for all employees in the road transport sector, which are now debated in Brussels. However, whether the set of measures will indeed be able to make a contribution to prevent social dumping and to ensure better working conditions on Europe’s roads, was the focus of an intensive debate within the scope of a panel discussion on 21 June 2017, organised by the Brussels Office of the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour, Austrian Trade Union Federation ÖGB and German Trade Union Confederation DGB.
Lucy Anderson, MEP, regretted that hardly any approaches existed in the Mobility Package, which would combat social dumping effectively. She in particular criticised the lack of a European Road Transport Agency, which would guarantee the implementation of provisions under EU law in road transport and controls within the Member States. She emphasised how urgent measures against social dumping on Europe's roads would be and also referred to the Demonstration of the European Transport Workers' Federation ETF and its affiliated trade unions, which took place in Brussels in April 2017. Apart from that, she was disappointed that the Commission’s proposal did not include any measures with regard to problems of taxi businesses.
Stefan Körzell, Member of the Executive Board of the DGB, also criticised that the Mobility Package would lack a social dimension. He pointed out that the ca. 5 million employees in road transport would not just be a fringe group, but a substantial part of employees in Europe, which should not be neglected. He warned against a downwards spiral, which, based on the proposed innovations in road transport would subsequently also be a threat to rail and shipping transport. He also sharply criticised the Commission, as infringement procedures against Austria, Germany and France are pending due to the allegedly too strict application of the Posting of Workers Directive in road transport.
Sylvia Leodolter, Head of the Environment and Transport Department at Chamber of Labour (AK) Vienna reached the same conclusion in her analysis. Many of the present proposals would mean a worsening of the position of the status quo, hence a danger that the risk of social dumping would increase. This refers in particular to the change of the Cabotage Regulation, hence the internal transport by a foreign company. Whilst until now three cabotage journeys were allowed within seven days; in future an unlimited number of cabotage journeys within five consecutive days shall be possible. Apart from that, she emphasised the necessity that the Posting of Workers Directive for all professional drivers engaged in cross-border transport had to apply from the first day and not only from the fourth day, according to the Commission proposal. Admittedly, the Package would also include positive aspects, for example with regard to letterbox companies or the accommodation of drivers at weekends; however, over all, the Commission had not given enough consideration to the concerns of the Citizens’ Initiative “Fair Transport”.
Jan Nemec, Head of Social Affairs, International Road Transport Union, basically regards the Mobility Package as a good discussion basis. But he too thought that improvements would be necessary, as also in his opinion the proposed Cabotage Regulation would leave to many questions unanswered. The problem with the current regulation would not lie in a limit to the journeys themselves, but in the inadequate control and execution. He regarded the clarification that employers had to take care of overnight accommodation in connection with the weekly resting period, as a “noble objective”; however, he pointed out that in many parts of Europe there would not be a sufficient number of hotels along motorways. He also thought it was positive that the Commission had held extensive consultations and discussions with stakeholders in the run-up.
Eddy Liégeois, Head of Unit, Road Transport, DG MOVE, defended the Package presented by the Commission as a balanced proposal with the objective to set simpler rules, which would also be easier to control in the future. From the Commission’s point of view, the proposed changes on cabotage would not mean an expansion of journeys, but a new approach, which was easier to control. He pointed out at the same time that it was a discussion basis, which would play a part in the opinion-forming process and that the Commission was open to changes proposed by Parliament and Council.
During the course of the discussion, Stanislava Rupp, who, within the “Fair Mobility” project, advises HGV drivers and carries out surveys, gave a closer insight into the problems facing drivers on Germany’s motorways. Whilst HGV drivers were well informed regarding current provisions on driving times and rest periods, they knew little about their rights in respect of minimum wage and social standards. For example, professional drivers would time and again report that employers would not pay them for periods taken up by refuelling and loading and unloading their HGVs.
In the concluding discussion round, MEP Michael Cramer, who was in the audience commented that social dumping could be significantly better controlled by introducing digital tachographs. However, the Commission proposal would only make it mandatory for all HGV’s from 2034. In his response, Eddy Liégeois pointed out that for new HGVs the latest generation of tachographs would also be compulsory from 2019; however, there was no obligation to upgrade older HGVs, which would explain the long transitional period.